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TK-JR: Astyanax's Foamtrooper Kids Armor Project


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Hey all!


So while I wait for my first armor to come from Anovos later this year, I've decided to spend some of the waiting time immersing myself in stormtrooper armor. To that end, I'll be building a set of TK armor for my very jealous almost-8-year-old boy in an attempt to familiarize myself with the various parts, study hanging/strapping/attachment techniques, get a good sense of fitting, and give my little guy something cool..


I scoured the internet for previous craft foam stormtrooper work, and while I found many good examples, what was missing each time were PATTERNS. I know every kid is different, but being able to have patterns is a big deal! So I WILL BE POSTING FULL SIZE TEMPLATES for each piece I make, so that anyone who wants to follow along or improve upon this build can do so.


Before I begin, I want to list the following sources as inspiration. I have ripped off all the best ideas extensively from these pages:


TK-409's Child-Sized Stormtrooper Tutorial: http://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=14408

TK-409's Child-Sized Stormtrooper Tutorial (details & pics): http://www.tk409.com/tk409.html

Garrison Titan's latest (unofficial) addition to the TK ranks: http://www.whitearmor.net/forum/topic/7316-garrison-titans-latest-unofficial-addition-to-the-tk-ranks/?p=92859#entry92859

theisaac's Kid's Foam Trooper Build: http://www.whitearmor.net/forum/topic/22941-kids-foam-trooper-build/

Omaha Jedi's Foam Trooper: http://www.omahajedi.com/foamtrooper_ii.htm

hirerob's Instructable: http://www.instructables.com/id/Kids-Stormtrooper-Costume/



My thanks go to all who came before!




EDIT: In my efforts to achieve more accuracy with this design, it has become clear that my child will not be able to sit down in this costume! He can't bend over, stoop, crouch, or run. Walking is a little slow. He understands this is more for standing around, looking cool, photo ops, etc. Like a real trooper. Not for playtime! Maybe I'll pick up a Rubie's for that...To make it more comfortable for your child, use slightly smaller pieces and longer straps. I was going for as much accuracy as I could, but there have to be tradeoffs.


So let me kick things off by catching everyone up on current progress...



Edited by Astyanax
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(Updated 7/10/2015)
After much research, I settled on the following materials for this project:
I bought several sheets of 2mm thick 12" x 18" white craft foam at Michaels. They come for $1 per sheet. I also purchased a couple sheets of the thicker 6mm sheets, which are also a dollar at 9" x 12". The thin sheets will form the bulk of the armor and the thicker sheets are for details/effects.
EDIT: I also purchased a piece of BLACK 2mm foam for the blaster holster.
For this project, I needed sticky-back velcro AND the sew-on (non-sticky) kind. There's no sewing necessary for this project, but there are a few exposed straps (just like for the real thing) and we need them to blend in with the undersuit and armor. I started with one package (18" long sticky, 30" long sew-on) of each kind in black, and one of each kind in white. These straps are 3/4" wide, which is perfect for this project. They were about $2.50 per package.
I'm using hot glue for some of the attachments, and white glue for most of the attachments and details. While I like the hot glue because it cools so quickly, it does not leave me with a nice clean seal and much as the white glue does. But white glue takes hours and hours to cure. I recommend low-temp hot glue, as the foam really reacts to high heat and can warp.
This part is completely optional. The helmet is going to require attaching a mask to a cheap child's space helmet. I decided to use Bondo Glazing & Spot Putty #907 (one-part) to fill in gaps and shape things a little. I had no experience with Bondo, but I recommend going for it. It makes a better helmet :)
I decided I want to do more than simply cut and stick some foam; I want to make something that lasts a bit longer and has that characteristic stormtrooper shine. So I will be finishing each piece in three FOUR layers:
1. 3 MEDIUM coats of white glue (2 hours minimum between coats), non-thinned, painted on. Again, this takes forever to dry. The glue helps seal the foam, because the foam wants to soak up any paints I will use on it. But it's water soluble, even when dry, so I can't count on white glue as a protective layer. I'm painting both sides of all pieces where I can.
2. 3 LIGHT coats (10 minutes between coats) of white Rustoleum Flexi-Dip. This is the exact same stuff as Plastidip, which is a spray-on rubberized paint. It gives the foam a rubbery quality and serves to prime it for the final layer. I will hereafter refer to this as Plastidip; it's just what Home Depot had at the time. I'm mostly spraying on the outside, but trying to get at least a thin layer on the inside of each piece. 
3. 2-4 MEDIUM coats (10 minutes between coats) of Rustoleum White Gloss Protective Enamel. This stuff will give the armor its shiny character, as well as provide a protective layer. I didn't try to get the inside of any of the pieces, but don't mind if it happens. (I was using clear glaze before, but this white paint covers up errors better if I need to make repairs. It's not as shiny, but shiny enough. :) ) You DO NOT need to wait to for the Plastidip to dry first! Dive in after 10 minutes!
4. 2-3 MEDIUM coats of Rustoleum Triple Thick Glaze. So I found that the gloss paint really wants to dry sticky and tacky, and stay that way for days, if not longer. Even when I follow the instructions. So I've had to follow up with a few coats of this Glaze. The cool thing about it is that it has a different base than the gloss paint, which is oil-based. The Glaze is acrylic-based, which, after applying a few hours after the gloss white paint, seals everything up nicely into a dry glossy sheen. I was having lots of trouble with the gloss paint, and the Glaze on top of the gloss solved everything. I highly recommend this step. You DO NOT need to wait to for the Gloss white to dry first! Dive in after 10 minutes!
For the holster I also bought black Flexi-Dip and black satin enamel:
Is it all overkill? Yes, without a doubt. But somehow, this combination produces a really nice Stormtrooper sheen. Buy several cans of each. And guys, this stuff smells and gives off major fumes for days. Wait 2-3 days after finishing before you let your kid wear the pieces!
EDIT: One other note about spray painting. Try to do this in low humidity, if at all possible. Like below 50%. I found that these finishes go on very differently in high humidity as opposed to low. In low humidity, I will end up with a nice glossy sheen. In high, it's a little more flat. You can always spray additional coats of clear glaze later when the humidity is lower!

I just discovered that GE Silicone DAP Dynaflex 230 in white will dry fairly semi-glossy, and when used as a "caulk" between seams, can really improve the look of things, as well as allow you to fix problems, such as the occasional random fingerprint or scratch. See my post below, between part #2 and part #3 for more details.
EDIT: I switched to DAP Dynaflex 230, because it is PAINTABLE! It doesn't have to be the last step anymore, but watch out for leaving fingerprints or streaks in it, and only use it in small areas!
RULE OF THUMB: If you're using the Dynaflex 230, caulk BEFORE painting. If you're using conventional white silicone, do that last!
Typical stuff around the house:
- Hot glue gun
- Exacto Knife
- Scissors
- Ruler
- Cutting mat
- Nitrile gloves (for handling gluey pieces)
- Velcro strips
- 1" paintbrush
- hair dryer HEAT GUN!
   (hair dryer just didn't get hot enough. Get the cheap one from Home Depot, just make sure it's no less than 1200-1500 watts.)
- 2-4 large popsicle sticks/tongue depressors (see biceps post below for technique)
- 2-4 spring clamps (see biceps post below for technique)
- fine grit sandpaper (120-150 grit)
- white electrical tape (standard 3/4" width).
- 5 gallon bucket
- parchment paper (the cooking kind)
- masking or painter's tape (I used Frog Tape)
I went though many sheets of paper, cutting and shaping, taping and then trying them on my son. For reference, he's almost 8 years old, about 49" tall, 55 lbs, pretty lanky.
I ended up finding out what works perfectly, and then adding about 5% to the overall scale to let him grow into it a bit. Also, transferring patterns from paper to foam tends to make it a touch smaller due to the thickness of the foam.
I am hosting all of the template patterns in my Dropbox. I may change this later, and will update this thread accordingly if I do. If any of the links don't work, PM me and I will hook you up.
These are extra large JPG files. You will want to print them at 100% and NOT, I repeat, NOT allow your printer to scale them down to fit. If you need to resize them to fit your child, use an image editing program first.
Without any further ado, let's dive into the forearms...
Edited by Astyanax
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(these are model's left/right)


First, I printed out the patterns on regular paper and cut them out. Then I traced the whole thing lightly onto thin craft foam. I also lightly marked where the three "cover strips" go on the pattern (notice the light pencil marks on the big piece below). Then, I cut each of the three cover strips from the paper as well, and also traced them onto the craft foam. I cut all the parts out, carefully using scissors for curved parts and exacto knife and ruler for the straight parts. After this, I carefully cut the squares out of the largest strip using a very sharp exacto knife, and this is what I was left with:




Next, I hot glued the strips to the bigger piece, using the light pencil marks as guides for positioning. Also notice that I cut a very tiny corner off every cover strip, giving me a more "rounded" effect:




Next, I took a hair dryer and blew a nice hot blast on the piece for a few seconds and the quickly formed it around a rolling pin, just for a few seconds. This made it much easier for me to glue the whole forearm closed.


I decided these pieces do not need a closure mechanism, since the foam is slightly stretchy and my son had no trouble inserting his arms through the paper versions in the test fitting.


So I then glued the pieces closed using hot glue. Notice the large cover strip side overlaps the opposite side. This is a little tricky because the hot glue dries so fast, so I started with one corner, and then worked my way down.


Drop that stuff above, and use the white glue popsicle stick technique outlined below for the biceps. So sorry for the runaround, but hot glue is a terrible choice for closing up armor pieces!


It can also be done using white glue, but then you will need to clamp it closed while it dries.


At this point I made the right forearm, following the same process.




Next was to begin the finishing. holding the forearm vertically with my fingers inside it, I painted a thin layer of white glue all around. I held it long enough to look for dripping, and then set it up vertically on parchment paper. I guess I should say at this point that I was SUPPOSED to go with a thin layer, but in both forearms my layers were too thick, causing a little dripping that was VERY HARD to fix. Paint it thinly! But drips do dry.


I should mention at this point that using the parchment paper as the base surface for all my white glue work did wonders for me. Parchment is silicone coated, so it prevent excessive sticking. I was glad I used it!


Do not use a hair dryer or anything else to quick-dry the white glue. It will ruin it!


When this had dried for 2 hours, I painted the forearms a second coat of white glue in the same fashion. 2 hours later, a third coat, and then I left it to dry overnight.


I then sprayed on 3 light coats (10 min between coats) of Plastidip, positioning the forearm vertically on a tarp so I could paint all around and not worry about rolling. After 10 minutes, I sprayed 3 medium coats (10 minutes between coats) of the white gloss paint. I flipped each forearm between coats of Plastidip and paint, so that the edges would get a bit of the spray on them each time. I also tried to get into the insides of the forearms with my coatings as much as was reasonable. I followed up 10 minutes laterr with 3 coats of Triple Thick Glaze (10 minutes apart).


A couple hours later and I had shiny forearms with a nice thick white protective layer!




I must say that there are MANY imperfections, drip spots, divots and such in the material, but you can't really see it in pictures, it looks awesome from a few feet away, and it does lend the whole thing some character. So don't mess with sandpaper, and just go with it! I learned this the hard way!



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(these are model's left/right)


I decided to move on to something a little easier as a next step while the forearms were drying, so here are the hand guards. They are intended to have a nice three dimensional layered look, so if you look below you will see that they should be cut in stages:


1. Cut the outside shape and trace onto the foam.

2. Cut out the outermost 2/3 and trace onto the foam.

3. Remove an inner and out strip and trace onto the foam.

4. Repeat with the other hand guard.




It looks best if you carefully use scissors for the curved cuts and a sharp exacto knife and ruler for the straight cuts.


Next, I hot glued them all together. When it had cooled, I took scissors and cleaned up the edges.




I wanted to put a slight curvature in the hand guards, so again I heated them up with a hair dryer and curved them just a little while they were warm.


Finally, I went through the same finishing process as for the forearms. Three coats of white glue on both sides (2 hours apart), three coats of Plastidip on both sides (10 minutes apart), and 10 minutes later, three coats of gloss enamel on the top sides only. After another 10 minutes, 3 more coats of clear glaze, again only on the top sides. I'm hoping the Plastidip layer on the undersides will provide a nice porous surface for glue to adhere to, for attaching to the gloves.


EDIT: Yep, it worked. :)




Speaking of which, I'm still shopping for gloves, so I will update this post as soon as the gloves are finalized.


Okay, this catches things up to the present. Next up will be the biceps, coming in a few days!



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Seems like this will go quite well for the armor.  What's your plan for the helmet?


I will copy TK-409's implementation of 3/4 mask plus astronaut/riot cop helmet:


http://www.tk409.com/tk409.html (scroll to the bottom)


hirerob did the same thing in his Instructable:




It seems pretty effective and in keeping with the rest of the design, which isn't perfect but is cute. I found the parts on Amazon and will document my version as well.



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Before I move on to new parts, there's been a small change to my process. I am very unhappy with how some of my seams are coming together. If you look at the pictures below, you'll see that where I have hot glued some of the attachments, there are enough gaps that the white glue and paint are not covering completely, resulting in "bubble holes". I thought I could make up for this by "caulking" with extra hot glue, but it doesn't look very clean. This comes from choosing hot glue instead of white glue, because the hot glue doesn't spread to fill all available space like white glue does. For this reason, using white glue, clamping your parts, and being patient are still the best way to go. But that will add time to the project. It's worth it.


So to fix, I am now "caulking" some of the seams with real caulk. Don't worry, it's very simple. I bought a small tube of this GE Silicone DAP Dynaflex 230 from Home Depot. I got the WHITE version. 


To take care of a bubbly seam, I just cut the tip of the silicone tube at its smallest point and laid a small bead of silicone along the seam. You don't have to get it perfect, or even close, for that matter. After this, I took my finger (wearing a nitrile glove) and ran it along the seam, pushing the silicone in and spreading it to a nice filled line, similar to how you might silicone something in your home. It is really quite easy, and you can see the amazing results below. I am doing this as the LAST STEP after the glaze has dried, because it takes 12+ hours to cure and it stays glossy. EDIT: I am no longer doing this as a last step, because I switched to the Dynaflex 230, which is paintable! I used it after the white glue painting, but before the Plastidip spray.


This means the process is now white glue 3 coats, caulk if you need it, Plastidip 3 coats, gloss enamel 3 coats, and finish with clear glaze 3 coats. 10 minutes between everything, except the white glue which needs 2 hours between coats. This is the golden combination. :)







This stuff does dry glossy, which means I am now using it to cover up some of the other flaws in execution. We have a decent armor patch!


This step is worth it. I may even silicone where I don't need to, just to smooth some transitions.


To avoid bubbly seams in the first place, see my "biceps" post below and go with white glue and spring clamps! It leaves a beautiful flat seam, but takes longer.



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(these are model's left/right)


Okay, after that caulking interruption (see previous post), things are back to normal and working out much better, I must say. The caulk is a godsend...but I digress.


This step is very similar to the process for the forearms, so I won't speak of it much but let the pictures do the talking:










Notice my clamping and closure method for gluing. I decided that white glue leaves a much cleaner seal than hot glue, so I bit the bullet and decided to be more patient and go with the white. Notice how I used the clamps and popsicle sticks to help distribute the pressure and not warp the foam. 






Again, no formal closure method, as this can slide right up the arm. It's sealed all the way around, but it's easy enough to use Velcro instead of glue to close it up. It does add a significant layer of thickness at the closure point if you go with Velcro.


For finishing, I used my new method: 3 painted on coats of white glue 2 hours apart, followed by 3 coats of Plastidip, 10 minutes apart, followed by 3 coats of gloss enamel 10 minutes apart (and 10 minutes after the Plastidip), and finished with 3 coats of clear glaze 10 minutes apart (10 minutes after the enamel).


Also, I did decided at this point to mark the insides of the pieces with an "L" or "R" with a Sharpie, just to make things easier all around.


At this point, I'm beginning to think about strapping, but also deciding that I will do as little as I have to. As the armor pieces come together, I will see what needs attaching, and resort to Velcro (black or white) as needed. So far, it's not needing any.


Next, I'm moving on to the shoulder bells! Back in a few days.



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Fantastic work so far! I'll be watching this with great interest, as my son has 'already put his order in' after hearing about my ANOVOS order. :smiley-sw013:

Once my daughter saw me in costume, she started her tantrum that she wants one lol



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EDIT: This post is now obsolete, now that I have settled with my perfect combination. But you can see how I arrived at it.


Thanks guys.


A new development. As my son is playing with some of the pieces, I'm noticing that they get dirty. Duh! I think Glaze over the Plastidip may be a bad idea, because it's not white. I'm switching to Gloss white over the Plastidip. That way, I can easily spray a new, fresh coat as needed. I need to see if it's as glossy as the glaze. If not, I may have to do both! Will keep you posted and update this thread accordingly as I learn more.


UPDATE: It stays tacky after drying, even if I follow the recoating instructions. I now top this off with the Triple Thick Glaze, and now I have a nice covering. The materials and tools list has been updated accordingly.



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Oh man! I'm so glad I saw this thread as I to am starting a foam build although it's for my very small 3 yo son. I'll be eagerly watching your progress and will make a thread as well. I could only find 2 build threads so this one helps a lot! 

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EDIT: This post is now obsolete now that I have found my golden combination above. But you can get the idea of what I was discovering:


Okay, the verdict is the gloss white enamel is not quite as glossy as the clear glaze, but definitely shiny enough! And it covers a multitude of sins. All the mistakes I'm making in my gluing and fingerprints and such can be covered right up! Going to update my tools/materials post above to reflect this. :)


UPDATE REPEATED: It stays tacky after drying, even if I follow the recoating instructions. I now top this off with the Triple Thick Glaze, and now I have a nice covering.


Shoulder bells in 2-3 more days!

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Sorry it took me awhile to get this part posted, but I wanted to get it right. The pattern comes from copying TK-409's pictures almost exactly. The trick is definitely to cut this split rounded shape, and glue the inner curves together. What I was trying to perfect was a better method for glueing it together. The secret? Hot glue in an INSIDE cover strip.


As you can see from the many pictures, I started by drawing a straight line down the middle of the bell template. Then, I glued the INSIDE cover strip from the base of the shoulder, up to where the inner curve starts, and then stopped there. Just do a half inch or so at a time, or you'll get the angle of the strip wrong. After this was done I drew another pencil line down the middle of the cover strip with a pencil as shown. This helped me align the curve as it came together.




To do the curve, I pushed/pulled the inner curved edge of one side and hot glued it a little at a time, aligning the edge to the pencil line. Build your curve on just one side, using the pencil line as a guide. Again, don't glue more than a half inch at a time. It's okay if it's not perfectly smooth, the outside cover strip will cover errors.






After I did one side, I completed the other. This was easier, because I didn't have to line up the curve with the pencil line, but rather the already-glued other side.








Once the inside cover strip was glued and the curve of the shoulder was completed, I clipped off the excess from the strip and then glued the OUTSIDE cover strip over the seam. Again, only glue a half inch or so at a time, waiting 10-15 seconds between each part, so as to keep the cover strip laying down nicely.







Then, after the requisite glueing and painting and glazing and caulking (I followed the finishing method outlined above), I was ready to put the elastic strip in. Painting caused the corners to flare up a bit, but I didn't mind this. I cut a 5" piece of one inch elastic, and hot glued it to the inside of the shoulder bells. We're done!








I will use velcro or elastic to attach the shoulder bells to the torso, but not just yet.


Next post, I'll be talking about undergarments. :D



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In coming up with the right kind of undersuit for my son, I had to weigh these requirements:


1. Low cost.

2. Two pieces (you know, for bathroom breaks and such).

3. Thin material, so it doesn't get too hot.

4. Tight material.

5. Easy adhesion with hot glue.

6. Shirt must have a turtleneck (I'm not doing a neck seal, but you don't want skin showing)


This ruled out sweater material, as well as sweat pants and sweat shirts.


After much research, I landed on these items:


Leveret Solid Turtleneck 100% Cotton (6-14 Years): $10.99, free shipping w/Amazon Prime


The shirt is slightly large for him, but quite workable, and shrank just a bit in the laundry. The material is just cotton, about as thick as a T-shirt.



Youth Sports Form Fit, Ankle Length Compression Tight: $18.00 w/free shipping via Amazon


Make no mistake, these are spandex COMPRESSION pants. I liked the really thin material; it's extra stretchy, so it hugs the body. If your kid doesn't like tight clothes (mine does), consider something else. The material is very smooth. The price was a little high for my taste, but I quickly saw that I was going to have to pay a few bucks to get something that was solid black, light, and tight.



Seasons - Theatrical Child (Black) Gloves: $7.50 including shipping via Amazon


These gloves are made of a pretty cheap, thin material. I needed smooth, non-"sweater"-like material, so that the hot glue would hold the hand guards tightly. I would like to have had longer wrists, but I think the shirt will still be long enough to cover nicely. This is another reason to go slightly large in the shirt.


Zan Headgear Nylon Balaclava: $5 via Amazon Prime Add-on


EDIT: I just added this as a necessary item because the helmet rides up too high in the back, exposing some of the back of the head. This cheap balaclava made it look more intentional. This will also be extra helpful if you intend to go with a mask only. :) You now have a fully dressed ninja. Bonus!



Next post: I attach the hand guards!



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EDIT: The below content happened as I was learning about using glaze over the gloss enamel. If you've been following along, this is old hat. But here, for posterity...


I had another setback with finishing. The gloss enamel that I switched to doesn't want to dry fully! It gets sticky and tacky and stays that way, probably due to the fact that following the instructions and spraying multiple light coats a few minutes apart, at 70 degrees and below 60% humidity, doesn't really work in real life. So why did my hand guards and forearms dry so perfectly and why are my biceps and shoulder bells giving me so much trouble? Oh yes! I added extra Glaze on top of those other pieces!


Turns out the Rustoleum Triple Thick Glaze is acrylic based, which means it can nicely overlay the OIL-based gloss enamel with a glossy shell that is not tacky. I sprayed 3 medium-heavy coats and the sheen returned with no tacky-ness. The good news is that I now have a final solution, regardless of spraying technique. The bad news is that I have to buy several cans' worth of THREE different finishes.


My "Finishes" post above has been updated accordingly.


The bottom line? As metioned and repeated above, for every armor piece, I am now brushing on 3 coats of white glue with 2 hours between coats. I am following this with 3 coats of Plastidip at 10 minutes between coats. 10 minutes later I am following with 3 coats of gloss white enamel at 10 minutes between coats. And 10 minutes later I am finishing with 3 coats of clear glaze at 10 minutes between coats.


I will point out here (as elsewhere) that humidity makes a difference. If you I this all with a humidity below 50%, it seems to dry much shinier.



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I very much enjoyed this step. I'll start with pictures and then comment accordingly.




So this picture above is just to show that the gloves came with card inserts. Using them to separate the cloth layers really helped with hot glueing the hand guards on top. That said, any piece of cardboard will work just fine. Cut open that cereal box or action figure packaging!




For this picture above, I test fitted the hand guards on my son's hands, had him make a fist, and drew a line to help mark things for glueing. Glue within these areas. You don't want to get glue into the areas where there are fingers, because that will inhibit finger movement. The good news is the hot glue stuck really well.




And here above you see the finished product. Not much to say here, except that I left about a half inch from the edge of the cuff for these particular gloves. The shirt sleeves are long enough to overlap the gloves with the cuffs of the shirt, but still stay under the hand guards.


It turns out that my hand guards are too large, but there's no way I'm changing it. It really adds to the "adorable" factor to keep these large. You purists out there will want to scale down my hand guard pattern to maybe 80%-90%. But you don't know the meaning of cute if you do that.


So, thanks to all of you who have read this post so far and have been so supportive. Here's a picture of my son Vincent with all of the armor pieces so far. There's not a lot of black showing in the joints. Vincent swears he has lots of good freedom of movement in the arms, so I'm optimistic I'm on the right track! (He's very excited, even though I suggested he smile less. :) )




By the way, the blaster is a Rubie's "Rebels" E-11 stormtrooper blaster, so far sprayed in just black primer. I'm pretty sure I'm going to recoat this thing in metallic black, and finish some of the details in silver brush paint, as well as just a little drybrush weathering. But more about that later. I do not subscribe to the notion of having a "kid-sized" blaster. A full-sized blaster (or as close to it as Rubie's gets) once again adds to the "adorable" factor.


(Yes, by the way, the shoulder bells don't stick on the shoulders because they're yet not attached to anything. My little trooper is holding very still so they don't slip off. :) )





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